9.11.01 (written the week after)
There is a passage in Job (28: 7) that says: “There is a path that no fowl knoweth, neither hath the raven’s eye seen.” Choose that path. Don’t let another day go by without telling the people you love that you love them, and mean it.
I feel like I need to write something about the events of last week. I hope you don’t mind that I share my thoughts with you.
I arrived in NYC on Monday, September 10 for meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. As I sat at dinner, the skies opened, the thunder clapped, and the lighting flashed. Even then it seemed portentous, but who but 19 knew of what?
On that fateful day, four of my colleagues and friends were to meet a client right at the WTC at 9:00 AM. I had also been invited to join the proceedings but declined. Instead, I stayed uptown at my hotel on 7th and 53rd and watched, grateful that I had heeded whatever voice I was listening to that impelled me to stay away. All four people, I guess five, are physically safe, though all have stories to tell about seeing things that nobody should have to see and experiencing things that nobody should have to experience. And in the end, each walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
The rest of my story is only moderately eventful. That same voice got me on a train Wednesday to Rochester NY where my father lives. It seemed incredibly important to me to get out of Manhattan. The ride along the Hudson and then Mohawk rivers is always lovely, made especially poignant that day as the late summer light painted the pastoral landscape in a late afternoon glow. On Saturday, that same inner voice got me in a rental car for a drive to Pittsburgh (a lovely drive) for nearly five hours of quiet contemplation. From there, I was able to get a flight back to SFO. In another moment of wonder, I read that day that a train from Chicago to San Fran had derailed in Utah the night before. I had tried to get a train all the way to San Fran but could not.
Ultimately there is no explanation for hate. There is no explanation for what happened this week in New York. In the days and months to come, there will be anger, retribution, hate, and fear unleashed by our government on people you and I don’t know, some of whom may deserve it, some of whom may not. History may look back and note that Afghanistan caused the downfall first of the Soviet Union and later of civilization. Then again, maybe not. The story that gets written may be one of transformation and coming together and ultimately some sort of as yet unseen type of unity.
The larger events will now unfold beyond the control of people like me and you. What is in our control are the thoughts that we think, the feelings that we feel, and the choices that we make.
I can choose to love or I can choose to hate. I can choose to listen to that voice that always seems to be whispering in the background, or I can choose to be distracted by all the noise that goes on in the foreground of my thinking. I can choose hope, or I can choose fear. I can embrace life, or I can brood on what might have happened or what happened to others.
I can share a kindness with a loved one or a stranger, or I can shake my fist in rage at someone who cuts me off in traffic. I can forgive my friends and colleagues their seeming foibles or I can assassinate them with my gossip and spite.
I can embrace the wonder of today, whatever it may bring, or I can grind though waiting for the weekend or a vacation or some better day sometime in the future that never may come. I can go to bed tonight knowing that I’ve told my wife and children that I love them, knowing that they love me, or I can let the opportunity to say I love you pass me by yet again.
And in choosing love and life every day, I believe I put wings on my feet and a shield of protection before me. The thoughts we think and the feelings we have are our true reality. Fill your thoughts with fear, doubt, hate, and spite, and you’re going to have that kind of day, that kind of life. Fill your thoughts with life, truth, and love, whatever those words mean to you, and you’re going to have a very different experience.
There is a passage in Job (28: 7) that says: “There is a path that no fowl knoweth, neither hath the raven’s eye seen.” Choose that path. Don’t let another day go by without telling the people you love that you love them, and mean it. Don’t let a scintilla of anger cloud your vision. Don’t let a jot of indifference cloud your heart. If we all did that just a bit more, the mist of hate that seems to have filled the air can not endure.